Compile Heart has a problem; a deep-seeded, horrible problem. They are published by NIS, thus, under that umbrella of trying to out-comedy the king of the organization. Fairy Fencer F (FFF) is a new IP from a company that has no shame in trying to be fun and creative, even if their character designs are better known than their stories. Can this new challenger to the throne take on the kingdom that Overlord Laharl built, or will it become a lowly prinny?
FFF follows the story of Fang, a wandering soul who is built so unlike a standard hero that the player could feel the game could end any moment with his lax, uncaring attitude about herodom. Luck allows him to pull a magical sword called a “Fury” out of the ground, akin to Excalibur, and team up with the fairy Eryn that inhabits the weapon. Together, along with a hilarious cast of characters that push the buttons of standard societal conventions, they collect other furies to unseal the Goddess and bring about world peace.
True to the Compile Heart formula seen in Hyperdimension Neptunia, this game pushes buttons for those who take sexuality too seriously. However, they add a bit of creativity by creating a dysfunctional cast of opposites. Each hero is teamed up with a fairy inhabiting their weapon, with each usually having an opposite personality to that of the wielder. It is just a fun cast of characters that makes playing the game enjoyable.
Replace Fang with Neptunia and you are playing a clone of her series. The environments and combat are similar to the point that they are only different through locations and specific actions. The graphics are the same as previous Hyperdimension titles. Special options in combat are different but the battlefield and acting are a copy and paste. This is a boon for those who have been enjoying those games, but a curse if a traditional turn-based system is more your style.
The fury system is a unique concept that helps make the backlog of furies and characters have a useful purpose rather than just take up space. When you try to revive the Goddess or Vile God you have to fuse a fury with them, letting the fury get special perks. These perks affect the equipped character, as well as shape dungeons to fit what you want. For example, one of my furies had a damage x2 dungeon modifier, allowing me to cut through enemies quicker and make grinding and boss battles a joke.
One part of the game that was enjoyable was the quick pacing. It stuck to a formula of a little bit of story, do a short dungeon, have the opportunity to do a fury side quest, lather, rinse, repeat. Since the story is slanted more towards fun rather than philosophical, the quick pacing helps the player not be bored with potentially useless banter that goes nowhere.
The soundtrack is well crafted from the opening movie to the battle music. Sometimes when a soundtrack is lethargic or doesn’t fit the theme of the moment, I put something on the laptop to watch as I play. White noise as they say. This is one of the few times where I didn’t want that white noise in the background. Some tracks had vocals akin to Skyrim, while others stuck to Compile Heart’s roots of J-Pop. The majority kept my ears interested. A minor spoiler, but something that had me excited, was the soundtrack switching. After a key point in the story, the song that plays while in your special form changes to a different one. It felt like watching an anime where the beginning and/or ending theme would change part-way through the series like in Death Note.
One disadvantage is how deceptively easy FFF is in the beginning. From an RPG standpoint there is little grinding needed, especially if you pull off the damage x2 trick early on. But even without it, there is an optional tower the player can continuously repeat to accumulate lots of wealth quickly. If you are the kind of genre expert that needs 20 minute boss battles this is not the game you are looking for. A lot of boss battles are finished faster than normal battles as sad as that sounds. As mentioned this is a bit deceptive as the game pulls off a bit of a twist that cranks the difficulty suddenly but then holds constant again.
Another problem is that the world shaping effects of some furies become useless. It is a min/max kind of experience, with a lot of the lower-level furies having their benefit coupled with a penalty. For example, your C rank fury could get a +10% physical attack bonus but be linked with a -10% magic attack penalty. Not earth shaking but when one fury’s effects are offsetting another fury’s, the question needs to be asked: what is the point? Use them with others and they are voided, or not use them at all and they gather dust. Even though the furies give you a special ability in battle when equipped, since only one fury can be equipped at a time it adds to the dust level.
Fairy Fencer F is just a fun RPG. There are twists and turns in the story that will reward players who take the time to play through it all. The cast of characters have their charm and are not grating on the player’s nerves, with enough variety to allow anyone to have a party of three that they enjoy. The only pertinent flaw with the game is the lack of use of a lot the low-level furies in the late game. RPG fans will have a nice gem to their PS3 collection at the end of the system’s lifespan.